Suspected rhino horn smuggler skips bail

Windhoek-Chinese national Zhi Geng, who was arrested for being in possession 100 kilogrammes of dried abalone and more than a kilogramme of rhino horn pieces, failed to make his mandatory appearance in court as scheduled on Monday, resulting in the court issuing a warrant for his arrest.

Zhi, 38, was arrested in a joint operation led by the Namibian police and the country's customs authorities last year, alongside Namibian national James Barron Wallace, 48, for illegally being in possession of controlled wildlife products.

I have no idea where accused one is. I tried to contact him but his mobile phone has been turned off, Zhi's defence attorney Kadhila Amoomo explained following an enquiry by Magistrate Celma Amadhila about the whereabouts of his client.

Although, Zhi was a no-show in court it did not deter the court proceedings. The prosecutor general has decided to have the two accused put on trial on five charges, ranging from unlawful dealing in controlled wildlife products to unlawful possession of controlled wildlife products.

The pair are set to stand trial for dabbling in the illegal trade after they were found in possession of 27 pieces of rhino horn, weighing 1,15 kg and valued at about N$91 000 in Ludwigsdorf in Windhoek.

Zhi and Wallace are said to have been found possession of 95 kg of abalone, valued at N$235,000. All this they had without a permit authorising possession or dealing in such products, according to the prosecution.

According to police reports at the time, the rhino horn was cut into pieces to more easily transport the animal products through customs.

Police reports further state that Zhi and Wallace smuggled dried abalone from South Africa into Namibia and were about to smuggle the products from Namibia to Hong Kong before they got arrested.

The pair are expected to take the stand for their plea and trial next year on January 31. Lawyer Norman Tjombe appeared for Wallace, with Laura Mabuku prosecuting.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia